A molar pregnancy
happens when tissue that normally becomes a
fetus instead becomes an abnormal growth in your
uterus. Even though it isn't an
embryo, this growth triggers symptoms of pregnancy.
A molar pregnancy should be treated right away. This will make sure that
all of the tissue is removed. This tissue can cause serious problems in
About 1 out of 1,500 women with early pregnancy
symptoms has a molar pregnancy.1 This means that 1,499
women out of 1,500 don't have this problem.
Molar pregnancy is
thought to be caused by a problem with the genetic information of an egg or
sperm. There are two types of molar pregnancy: complete and partial.
Sometimes a pregnancy that seems to be twins is
found to be one fetus and one molar pregnancy. But this is very rare.
Things that may increase your risk of having a
molar pregnancy include:
A molar pregnancy causes
the same early symptoms that a normal pregnancy does, such as a missed period
or morning sickness. But a molar pregnancy usually causes other symptoms too.
These may include:
Most of these symptoms can also occur with a normal
pregnancy, a multiple pregnancy, or a miscarriage.
can confirm a molar pregnancy with:
Your doctor can also find a molar pregnancy during a
ultrasound in early pregnancy. Partial molar
pregnancies are often found when a woman is treated for an
molar pregnancy can cause heavy bleeding from the uterus.
molar pregnancies lead to gestational
trophoblastic disease. Sometimes this disease keeps
growing after molar pregnancy is removed.
In a few cases, trophoblastic disease turns into cancer.
Fortunately, almost all women who get this cancer are cured with
In rare cases, the abnormal
tissue can spread to other parts of the body.
When you have a molar
pregnancy, you need treatment right away to remove all of the growth from your
uterus. The growth is removed with
a procedure called vacuum aspiration.
If you are done having children, you may decide to have your uterus removed (hysterectomy) instead of having a vacuum aspiration to treat your molar pregnancy.
After treatment, you will have regular blood tests to look for signs of
trophoblastic disease. These blood tests will be done over the next 6 to 12
months. If you still have your uterus, you will need to use birth control for the next 6 to 12 months so you don't get pregnant. It is very important to see your doctor for all follow-up visits.
If you do get trophoblastic disease, there's a small
chance that it will turn into cancer. But your doctor will likely find it early
so it can be cured with
chemotherapy. In the rare case when the cancer has had
time to spread to other parts of the body, more chemotherapy is needed,
sometimes combined with radiation treatment.
disease doesn't keep most women from becoming pregnant later.2
After a molar pregnancy, it’s normal to feel very
sad and to worry about cancer. It may help to find a local support group or
talk to your friends, a counselor, or a religious adviser.
Learning about molar pregnancy:
The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts educational
programs and offers many services to people with cancer and to their families.
Staff at the toll-free number have information about services and activities
in local areas and can provide referrals to local ACS divisions.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for
women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient
education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient
education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive
health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government
agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection,
and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people who have cancer
and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses,
and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about
clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained
staff members available to answer questions and send free publications.
Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2004, reaffirmed 2008). Diagnosis and treatment of gestational trophoblastic disease. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 53. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 103(6): 1365–1377.
Berkowitz RS, Goldstein DP (2007). Gestational trophoblastic disease. In JS Berek, ed., Berek and Novak's Gynecology, 14th ed., pp. 1581–1603. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Burtness B (2004). Neoplastic diseases. In G Burrow et al., eds., Medical Complications During Pregnancy, 6th ed., pp. 479–504. Philadelphia: Elsevier.
Other Works Consulted
Aghajanian P (2007). Gestational trophoblastic diseases. In AH DeCherney et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 885–895. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Li AJ (2008). Gestational trophoblastic neoplasms. In RS Gibbs et al., eds. Danforths Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp 1073-1085. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
October 11, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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